Šiauliai In Your Pocket

Lithuania’s fourth city, Šiauliai was first mentioned in rhyme in 1236 in reference to a savage battle between the then Lithuanian tribes and the Sword Brothers, a particularly nasty bunch of monks working for the Bishop of Riga.

The monks, so the story goes, were 'cut down like women', and the Battle of Saule (Saulės Mūšis) as it became known is notable as being the first ever victory of the emerging Lithuanian nation over a significant external power. With a population of just over 130,000, modern Šiauliai retains that original fighting spirit.

Almost completely flattened twice during the last hundred years, the start of the 21st century has seen the city balloon into a thriving metropolis thanks in part to its strategic location at the crossroads of two major trade routes. Šiauliai’s distinctly provincial centre features one or two outstanding bars and restaurants plus a shockingly odd collection of impressive museums and galleries. Small by western European standards, a week here could drive you nuts.

A day or two on the other hand is highly recommended.